Thursday, September 18, 2014


Bob Marley, yes, that Bob Marley, reading the newspaper.


Off-Campus Life

Published: September 5, 2009

Try to read a good newspaper every day — at bedtime or at breakfast or when you take a break in the afternoon. If you are interested in art, literature or music, widen your horizons by poring over the science section. In the mood for spicy scandals? Read the business pages. Want to impress your poli sci prof? Read columnists.

Tamara Shopsin

Educators give some helpful advice to young adults entering school this fall.
More Op-Eds »
The newspaper will be your path to the world at large. At Williams College, where I was a student in the 1930s, we read the alarming reports in The Times about Germany’s brutal onslaught against peaceful nations. In the spring of 1938, we burned Hitler in effigy — and made Page 11 of The Times! In June 1940, as France fell to Nazi troops, hundreds of graduating seniors urged compulsory military training, and provided another Williams story to the paper.

In addition, a great newspaper will teach you how to write: most articles are models of clarity and substance — with no academic jargon! Pay attention to the writer’s vocabulary, see how many active verbs are used, file away striking new words for future use. Study how articles are structured — how the first paragraph tells the reader simply and clearly the subject and main points. Take a look at the last paragraph; it will often show you how to conclude an essay with a pithy phrase or a telling quotation.
A great newspaper will help you in the classroom — and it will be your conduit to the real world outside the classroom. Become addicted.

Another way to stay connected with the real world: get to know your teachers outside of class. Chat and engage with them, perhaps on the walk away from class. Ask them not only about the coursework but also about their own intellectual interests and research. Equally important to maintaining that lifeline to the universe beyond college is getting to know the janitors and housekeepers in your dorm, the security staff on the campus, the people who work in the cafeteria. Talk to them, ask them questions and thank them.

James MacGregor Burns, a professor emeritus of government at Williams College and the author, most recently, of “Packing the Court,” has been teaching since 

During the first weeks of school I often stress the importance of reading the newspaper daily.  James MacGregor Burns, who has been a college teacher for over 50 years and the author of many books on U.S. government and history, encourages students to "[t]ry to read a good newspaper every day."  Most of you do all the things he suggests, but it is good to see his ideas in print. In addition to reading MacGregor's article, (see above), you might want to take a look at some of these other articles in The New York Times Education Life section.  You'll find articles on "The Year of the MOOC,"   and . . . you name it. Please post some of your reactions to what Burns and the other writers have to say.  What do you think is going on at colleges today?

Follow these links to three newspapers that you should become familiar with.  Why not make one of these your home page?

Los Angeles Times

The New York Times

The Washington Post

and this one, too:

BBC news

Want to see more newspapers? Of course. See Newseum.

Eva Longoria with newspaper. Not just an accessory.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Pasadena City College
Study Abroad Program

Information Meetings in Room C217:    9/18, 10/16, and 11/13 noon and 6pm

Earn 12-20 transferable units in English and Natural/Physical Science:

ENVS1: Introduction to Environmental Science (4 units)
Biology 14: Field Biology (4 units)
Physical Science 2: Scientific Method as Critical Thinking (3 units) 
ENG 9: Creative Non-Fiction (3 units)
ENG 49A: Film as Dramatic Literature (3 units)
ENG 57: Modern Drama (3 units)    

Program Includes:
Round trip airfare and transfers
Housing and meals in British homestays 
Activities include plays, museums, and other cultural events in London and Oxford
Full day excursions to London, Stonehenge, Bath, The Eden Project and more
Guest lecturers in Oxford
Spring Break: free time to travel (March 13-22, 2015)

Cost: $8,605 (excluding airline taxes, fees, fuel surcharges and PCC tuition fees)

Professor Krista Walter, English
Professor Erika Catanese, Natural Sciences

Financial Aid may be available for those who qualify. For more information visit or contact the Financial Aid Office in Room L114: (626-585-7401).

Brochures and applications available online at 
or at the Study Abroad Office/Instructional Support: Room C229 (626-585-7483).

Monday, September 15, 2014

1B: Arthur Miller (1915-2005) & Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller: younger (at left); older (at right).

The New York Times has an extensive archive of articles on Arthur Miller.  Click here  to see their many reports, slide shows, and videos on him, from reviews to interviews to a celebration of his life in the theater.   

Miller also appeared on the Charlie Rose show where he offered his thoughts on what makes a great playwright.  With a little searching you can find many other interviews with Miller on YouTube.

Here is another interview with Arthur Miller, that I found in The Paris Review, Summer 1966 issue. Miller was also interviewed by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2002.

Miller was featured on a PBS American Masters Program. Go here to read their biography of him.

On Canvas
Essay assignment on Death of a Salesman is now posted. Get it before you read the play.

Brief notes about the characters in Death of a Salesman:
Willy Loman (said to be 60, pages 6&8; 63, page 42)
Linda Loman ("not even 60")
Happy (son of Willy and Linda, 32)
Biff (son of Willy and Linda, 34)
Bernard (son of Charley; Biff's age)
The Woman (Willy has an affair with her)
Charley ("Uncle Charley," next-door neighbor; friend, not related)
Uncle Ben (Willy's brother)
Howard Wagner (Willy's boss; the son of Willy's former boss)
Jenny (Charley's secretary)
Stanley (waiter)
Miss Forsythe (woman at restaurant)
Letta (woman at restaurant)

A must print and read for all English 1B students:
Arthur Miller's "Tragedy and the Common Man." In this 1949 essay,  Miller makes clear the relationship between a character like Willy Loman and the more classical (and commonly accepted) tragic figures from Greek playwrights and Shakespeare.  BRING YOUR COPY--print it out--of "Tragedy and the Common Man" to class. You need not read it before class. Skimming it would be smart, however, 

If the above link to "Tragedy and the Common Man" does not work, try this link to get a copy of Miller's essay. It was posted by Prof. Eric Hibbison of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA.

If you've read "Tragedy and the Common Man" you've seen Miller's remark about the Oedipus and Orestes complexes. Thanks to the urging of Ricardo Paredes and Rafael Azizyan it's time to offer a briefing on said complexes.

These complexes begin with Greek tragedies by Sophocles and Euripides. Sophocles' tragedy Oedipus Tyrannus, the story of Oedipus, is about a man who fulfills a prophecy by unknowingly murdering his father and marrying his mother.  Sigmund Freud saw in this tale an example of a repressed personality passionately drawn to the parent of the opposite sex and severe hatred for the same sex parent (e.g., son loves mother, son hates father).

The Orestes complex is the opposite: in the story of Euripedes' Electra a man named Orestes kills his mother (with Electra's assistance) to avenge his father's death.  Freud took this play to serve as a template in describing the son whose extreme violent nature is directed against his mother while his deepest affection is reserved for his father. Today, with reference to both complexes, the offspring examined in this diagnosis may be a son or a daughter.

Maureen Dowd of The New York Times looks at the father-son relationship in the play and in our lives with Mike Nichols, stage and film director, and director of the Salesman production with Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy.  NPR also did an interview with Hoffman about his performance; go to this page to listen to the interview.

Finally, you may wish to turn to the web pages of Prof. Barbara McManus, of the College of New Rochelle, and her discussion of Aristotle's definition of tragedy. Note how Aristotle calls for a character to be "renowned and prosperous."  What would Miller say to this?  Willy is neither, of course.  Miller's explanatory argument is not just for the drama critics and audiences of 1949, it may be for Aristotle too.

If you wish further help understanding the meaning of tragedy in dramatic literature, check Dr. L. Kip Wheeler's website for definitions of tragedy, tragic flaw and tragic hero.

For a discussion regarding the idea of a flashback in contrast to the past being concurrent to the present read Miller's remarks below. He made them in his interview with the National Endowment for the Arts:

"[Death of a Salesman] begins with its action, and there are no transitions. It is a kind of frontal attack on the conditions of [Willy Loman's] life, without any piddling around with techniques. The basic technique is very straightforward. It is told like a dream. In a dream, we are simply confronted with various loaded symbols, and where one is exhausted, it gives way to another. In Salesman, there is the use of a past in the present. It has been mistakenly called flashbacks, but there are no flashbacks in that play. It is a concurrence [my emphasis] of a past with the present, and that's a bit different."

In fall 2012 Manuel Gonzalez asserted that flashbacks do occur in the play,  after all.  I attempted to explain Miller's position by quoting William Faulkner's position re: the past: "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Explain why you agree (or not) that Faulkner's words describe Miller's characterization of Willy.

These three clips, below, from three very different Death of a Salesman productions:

Fredric March starred as Willy Loman in the 1951 film
version of Death of a Salesman. Arthur Miller had
no control of the screenplay and was unhappy with
the film, which cut a number of scenes from his play.

Brian Dennehy was honored twice, a Tony Award (1999) and the
 Laurence Olivier Award (2005), for his stage performances
 of Willy Loman in New York and London, respectively.

Lee J. Cobb brought Willy Loman to the world in the 1949 stage premiere
 of Death of a Salesman. Here Cobb is--some believe he was the
 quintessential Willy--in the 1966 television broadcast.

Miller reads excerpts from Death of a Salesman.  This recording was made in Feb.1955 in New York City at the 92nd Street Y, home to many literary events. If the recording does not play, go to the 92nd Street Y archive to listen.

Questions re: Death of a Salesman: All Miller quotes below are taken from his “Tragedy and the Common Man” essay.

If we have time, we will form groups for discussion regarding these questions. If groups are formed, one group member will lead the discussion, one take notes and another will prepare to represent the group for a class discussion.  One set of notes per group will be collected at the end of the discussion. 

1. What does Miller mean when he says in his essay, “we are often held to be below tragedy or tragedy above us”? Does he agree with this belief? Do you? Why?

2. How is Willy Loman, as Miller writes, unwilling to “remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity, his image of his rightful status”? Does Willy’s family—Linda, Biff and Happy—share this trait with him or not?  Explain.

3. Miller discusses “the underlying fear of being displaced” and its connection to tragedy.  How does this quality apply to Willy Loman?

4. Miller argues how “tragedy requires the finest appreciation by the writer of cause and effect.” Offer examples from Death of a Salesman that illustrate his claim. 

5. What is the difference between an hallucination, a dream, and a remembrance? Is Willy inhabiting a world of hallucinations or dreams? Neither? Are his remembrances mostly accurate or not? Explain with specific references to Ben, the Woman, and Biff.

6. Why is it difficult to follow the action?  Am I missing something?  Why is Miller telling things in such a weird fashion?  Time is all over the place.

7. How does each of Willy's family members react to Willy's  planned suicide?  What does their reaction--whether to confront, ignore, or be gently-- reveal about their character? 

8.  Willy favors Biff over Happy.  Why?  Is it because Biff is a talented athlete, the oldest, or reflects the nature of a succession in a powerful family?  Explain.

9.  Some members of the audience see Willy as suffering some sort of nervous disorder or mental disability.  If this is so, can Willy still be a tragic hero as Miller wants us to believe he is? When answering the question, recall Miller's assertion that "the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing--his sense of personal dignity [my emphasis.] From Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggle is that of the individual attempting to gain his "rightful" position in his society."

10.  We know that the gods are present in Greek tragedies.  Are they present in Death of a Salesman?  Why or why not?

The 1949 premiere of Miller's Death of a Salesman,
 with Mildred Dunnock, Lee J . Cobb, Arthur Kennedy, and Cameron Mitchell.

Additional Questions from previous classes: 

1.  What is the importance of music playing at the opening and end of Act I? (Jeremy)

2. Why do you think that Willy is so stubborn? Why does he resist change? (Eunice)

3. Why does Willy demand that Linda not speak? (Felipe)

4.  Why does Biff tell his mother to dye her hair? 

5. Willy says, "That's a million dollar idea!" What is Willy revealing about himself when he says these words? (Shogo)

6. Why does Willy want to kill himself? (Dara)

7. Why does Happy not have the respect of his family? (Sydnee)

8. Reread the description of Feminist criticism in our literature textbook.  Apply its features to the character of Linda.

There have been hundreds, if not more, productions of Death of a Salesman since its 1949 premiere.  Here are two recent productions that have received a wide reception.

Philip Seymour Hoffman starred as Willy Loman in a New York production of Death of a Salesman in Spring 2012. See "Searching for the Life of a Salesman," The New York Times, March 8, 2012.  Maureen Dowd, also of the Times, talks to its director Mike Nichols about the significance of the father-son relationship in her article "How Oedipus Wrecks."

A scene from the 2012 Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, with, from left,
Andrew Garfield, Finn Wittrock, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Linda Emond.

The South Coast Repertory (SCR) theatre in Costa Mesa, CA production of Death of a Salesman ran August-September 2013. Go to the SCR site for more information. The Los Angeles Times also profiled Charlie Robinson, who starred as Willy Loman.

Charlie Robinson as Willy Loman in the August-September 2013
 South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, production of Death of a Salesman

Sunday, September 14, 2014

1A: Lars Eighner

The hardcover edition of Travels with Lizbeth was published in 1993.
"On Dumpster Diving" is taken from this book.
Lars Eighner biography
"Lars Eighner was born on November 25, 1948 in Corpus Christi, TX. Eighner grew up surrounded by many literary influences and at age 11 he went to a creative writing workshop by George Williams. For most of his adult life Eighner wrote for the community and nonpaying publications but he did not submit his work to paying publications until 1983. His first short story collection, Bayou Boy, was published in 1985. Two years later he lost his job in the state asylum in Texas and because he did not have the income to support himself and keep his home so he moved to the streets. Eighner and his dog, Lizbeth, were homeless for three years. While he was living on the streets he began writing his experiences about being homeless down on paper. His essay On Dumpster Diving describes Eighner’s experiences with scavenging for items and foods in dumpsters as a way of survival. The essay first appeared in the Fall 1991 issue of Threepenny Review. In 1996 Eighner and Lizbeth relocated to San Antonio, TX where the housing available was more affordable than where they had been currently living. The two were homeless again when a teaching position fell through for Eighner and he had no money to pay for the apartment. He currently lives in a small apartment in Austin and supports himself by writing short stories and essays."
(Source: 101 K Dumpster Diving, undated web post)

The Way We Live Now: Questions for Lars Eighner; A Roof of One's Own
The New York Times, March 7, 1999
By Melanie Rehak

Q: After being homeless for three years, you've spent the last few years in an apartment in Austin, Tex. How has the whole experience changed your idea of what home is?
A: I think the principal difference is realizing that your house is someplace that you can exclude people from. Almost everybody who is homeless for any period of time has some kind of usual haunts that they tend to orbit around. They know the places, they know where to sleep. But you have no right to be where you are and so you can't keep somebody else out. Before you deal with these things you just don't think that's what the idea of having a place is, to try to keep other people out.
Q: And now that you do have a home, are there any aspects of your old life that you miss?
A: Well, yes. It's silly to deny that, especially in the parts of the country where the weather isn't life-threatening, having the fresh air is nice. Right now I'm located in a very tiny corner apartment, and there's no cross-ventilation because the assumption is everybody can afford air-conditioning. And I'm not a big biorhythms kind of mystical New Age person, but there's something to be said for living by the sun.
But basically, not being governed by bells and whistles and stuff. I understand now that there are people who are homeless who have Web pages and cell phones. I think things like that seriously compromise the positive aspects of the experience. When I first came off the street, we were having these waves of big media events. I don't remember whether it was Amy Fisher or Tonya Harding, but it was that shock that everybody goes crazy over one little thing at once. When you're on the street, you've got to worry about where will I sleep tonight, what will I eat today, where will I pee. When you're off the street, you get into worrying about things that don't really have any reality and being annoyed by things that really shouldn't register.
Q: What part of housed life was hardest to adjust to?
A: The massive amount of stuff that you have to have. I mean, if somebody comes along and hands you a check for the rent and the deposit and a pile of food stamps, the number of things that you don't have that you need. A toilet plunger, light bulbs, garbage bags. There's many hundreds of dollars that you have to spend to make a space that you can live in and hope that someone won't come in and throw you out.
Q: Do you feel as if you're more isolated now?
A: I go weeks at a time without seeing anybody new, and basically I only see three or four people to talk to in a month. I'd say I'm more isolated now than when I was in the urban areas, where I had to gravitate to go Dumpster-diving. And the urban housing situation is that you live in an apartment, and even if you ever see the neighbors, you have no idea who they are or what they're doing.
Q: Do you find yourself taking anything for granted now that you've got a home?
A: No. I'm pretty much constantly in terror of going back on the streets. It's like being on a glass staircase. No matter how far up I get, when I look down, I see all the way to the bottom. Every day it's the issue: how long is it going to be until I'm back in that situation? Particularly in Austin, there's constantly the feeling that you're being squeezed out. I really feel like I'm about to be squeezed out by the human race.
Q: When you look back, were there times you most missed having your own home?
A: Oh yeah. I'd sort of half wake up in the middle of some rain- or ice storm when I was getting wet no matter what precautions I'd take against it, where I'd want to chuck it in and go inside and go to bed like you would do if you were a kid camping in the backyard, except there is no inside, no place to go in to.
Q: Lizbeth, your dog, was your constant companion through all those homeless years. I know she has passed away, but how did she adapt to home life while she was still alive?
A: I was glad we were off the street while Lizbeth was still living, and that she was able to be comfortable sometimes in her old age. For the longest time, home was where she was, and I'm sure to her home was where I was. That aspect is kind of missing now.

Lars Eighner and Lizbeth II (?)

The View From a Literary Dumpster

The New York Times, October 10, 1993 

By Jonathan Raban

Book Review: TRAVELS WITH LIZBETH By Lars Eighner. 271 pp. New York: St. Martin's Press. $19.95. 

FROM Jack London to Ted Conover, authors of firsthand reports from the world of destitution have nearly all been amateur paupers, visiting the foreign land of poverty much as other adventurous writers have taken off for Patagonia or the Hindu Kush. London began "The People of the Abyss" (1903) with the story about how his cabdriver had been reluctant to take him to the slums: " 'See here!' I thundered. 'Drive me down to the East End, and at once!' " To pass as a street person, London bought old clothes at a Whitechapel slopshop and sewed a gold sovereign into his long johns for emergencies. In "Down and Out in Paris and London" (1933), George Orwell trades his respectable suit for "some dirty-looking rags" and is at once accepted into the sodality of the underclass. In Mr. Conover's "Rolling Nowhere" (1984), his first stop is a charity store, where he purchases $5 worth of threadbare duds, before going on to the bank to pick up his traveler's checks.

The great exception to these investigative costume dramas has been, until now, W. H. Davies's "Autobiography of a Super-Tramp" (1908). Davies did not ride into vagrancy by taxi. He was a thief and a drunk who attributed his weakness for the bottle to his having been born in a South Wales pub. He was a tramp for a dozen years in the United States, Canada and Britain, and his book describes how he lived rough, rode the rails, sold bootlaces, "griddled" (sang pathetic hymns outside the houses of the well-to-do), ground knives, "downrighted" (begged) and stole. Jumping a freight train in Ottawa, he lost his right leg. All this while, he also wrote poems.

The poems eventually saved him from homelessness. He sent a self-published book to George Bernard Shaw, who provided Davies with a blurb and tipped off the literary editors. In 1905, a squad of Fleet Street feature writers made their way down to the South London doss house where Davies was quartered, and turned the 34-year-old tramp into an overnight celebrity. He died in 1940, a rubicund old lion with a young wife, a huge circle of admirers and a secure place in the anthologies. Some of his poems ("What is this life if, full of care, / We have no time to stand and stare") will be familiar to people who cannot place his name.

"Travels With Lizbeth" is a modern autobiography of a supertramp. For Lars Eighner, homelessness was until very recently a full-time job, as it was for Davies, and this book takes us into the profound depths of that other country that lies all around us on the streets. In lavish, patient detail, it re-creates the grammar, point of view and domestic economy of the unhoused life, and if there's any justice in the world it should guarantee its author a roof over his head for the rest of his days.

IN the mid-1980's, Mr. Eighner, who had no college degree, was working as an attendant at what he calls "the state lunatic asylum" in Austin, Tex., when he quarreled with his supervisor and lost his job. Passing effortlessly through the wide mesh of the welfare system, he was soon evicted from his rented shack. With his dog, Lizbeth, he camped out on the floors of friends' apartments, and when his welcome ran out he slept in parks and on roadsides, foraging for food in Dumpsters. For three years he zigzagged between Austin and Los Angeles; a fat, fortyish hitchhiker in badly torn jeans with a dog, for whom few of us would have stopped on the hard shoulder. This wasn't Robert Louis Stevenson with his donkey or John Steinbeck with Charley: Mr. Eighner and Lizbeth's "travels" restore the word to its roots in travail and trepalium, the triple-staked torture of the Inquisition.

Mr. Eighner wasn't wholly destitute. He was a writer, successful in his field -- erotic stories for gay magazines. Some of his fiction is collected in "Bayou Boy" (Badboy Books/Masquerade): Ring Lardner-like vernacular stories in which the guys have sex instead of playing baseball. The craftsmanship of the writing far outweighs its pornographic element: Mr. Eighner's hard-boiled, streetwise voices ring fluently true; the contingent urban details are cannily observed; the body-to-body stuff is skippable. But the magazines for which these tales were written paid little and paid late: 3 cents a word, about $75 a story. The world of the gay fictioneer is a grim new New Grub Street.

Though his writing kept his pride alive, it earned far too little to house him or save him from the Dumpsters. As writers must, he watched himself living, and saw that his life lay outside the reach of conventional narrative: "A homeless life has no story line. It is a pointless circular rambling about the stage that can be brought to happy conclusion only by a deus ex machina." In "Travels With Lizbeth," Mr. Eighner's voice and form are as strikingly unconventional as the life they conjure.

The Dumpsters hold the key to Mr. Eighner's weird prose style. As he fishes in the garbage for pizzas, discarded shower curtains, half-full jars of peanut butter, so he scavenges the wastebins of literature for old words and phrases that can be dusted off and used again. He describes himself, with a Pickwickian flourish, as "uncommonly stout." Or: "As I was finding no romantic or sexual prospects in Hollywood, I might have thought to send for Tim if I had secured an independent situation." His writing is peppered with expressions like "to wit," "to boot," "tarry," "vicissitudinous." "The driver was in Western attire. . . . But his clothes in spite of many washings acknowledged no recent acquaintance with hard work."

These linguistic glad rags are like Charlie Chaplin's bowler hat and tail coat, and Mr. Eighner wears them with deadpan irony. On the street, words were his only wealth and only weapons, but they didn't do him much good. Hospitalized with phlebitis, he had an argument with a doctor and paraded outside the hospital with a placard reading "DR. STALIN DENIES PATIENTS' RIGHTS" on one side and "DEMAND TO READ YOUR CHART" on the other. "I did not attract much attention," he reports.

Squatting in a vacant building, he achieved the coveted privilege of a mailing address: "I managed to register to vote -- and the registration stood up to a challenge from an old political enemy -- but though I wrote the Secretary of Commerce I could not get counted by the census of 1990." Cranky and obstreperous, Mr. Eighner can make the reader feel a quiet sympathy for Dr. Stalin, and there are passages in the book that read as if they were penned in the minute, intricately tangled handwriting favored by people who pester strangers with paranoid hard-luck stories. Yet Mr. Eighner's is a complex voice -- by turns grandiloquent and simple, alienating and compelling. He has the rounded presence of a character in fiction: a quare fellow; an original.

THE world he re-creates in his book is an unfailingly strange one. Time works differently there. Weeks on end go absent without leave from Mr. Eighner's memory, while a nightmare 24 hours are spent on a miserable odyssey through the suburbs of Tucson, trying to find a store that will pay cash for a $4.40 book of postage stamps. George Bernard Shaw, in his preface to "The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp," professed astonishment at how Davies could lose his leg "with no more to-do than a lobster loses a claw or a lizard his tail. . . . If such a thing happened to me, I should begin the chapter describing it with 'I now come to the event which altered the whole course of my life and blighted, etc., etc.' "

But lives like Lars Eighner's and W. H. Davies's do not proceed along compass courses, and there is no measuring of degrees of deviation from the settled norm. So the uncashed book of stamps looms like a tragedy, and a lost leg gets registered as a minor inconvenience. "Travels With Lizbeth" is full of these abrupt distortions of scale: when a lover exhausts his patience, Mr. Eighner remarks matter-of-factly, "I decided that as soon as I could think of a way of disposing the body I would have to kill Tim."

In fact, he doesn't murder Tim because, like everyone else in the book, Tim vanishes from the story on a whim. No sooner is a human connection made than it is lost. Each of the drivers who stop for Lars and Lizbeth -- a predictably rum bunch of psychotics, thieves, drunks and born-again Samaritans -- swells into a major character, then dwindles to a fading dot on the horizon. And so it is with Mr. Eighner's lovers, friends and fellow street people. The one sure thing about them is that they will shortly disappear, and their exits make for handy chapter endings: "I did not look back at Dallas." "After a while I saw [ Don ] no more." "Daniel did not return and I assume he went to Houston."

MR. EIGHNER'S companion on the road is oddly hard to see in sharp focus. Lizbeth's four legs and tender paws support a continuously shifting cargo of needs and apprehensions. Now hunger, now fear, now cold, now pain, now infantile playfulness, now moody sorrow, she is the protean self, utterly given over to the desire of the moment; Mr. Eighner's own dog's life, trudging beside him. Nor is the reader the only one to be puzzled by Lizbeth's indefinite physical presence: early in the book, she is described as mostly Labrador retriever; some pages later, she is mistaken, in good light, and by several observers, for a pit bull.

To both man and dog, people are evanescent creatures, and not to be relied upon. Things, by contrast, have a powerful characterly weight in Mr. Eighner's story. He can make one see and smell the tumbled innards of a Dumpster, where "every grain of rice seems to be a maggot"; he shows one the sickly yellow color of a $10 bill found in the desert, the glaze of a doughnut that urban bees "harvest," the cardboard pallet, the hot cinders underfoot. Objects stir his imagination more profoundly than humans do, and he's at his best when breathing new life into some old piece of junk found on the street. Near a sorority house, he comes across a mess of yarn. He needs a sweater for the coming winter, and so: "I made a circular knitting pin of a length of television cable and the point guards of two ball-point pens. . . . While I knitted I liked to imagine I was knitting while the heads of yuppies rolled past my feet."

"The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp" was in part a how-to manual, with W. H. Davies expertly advising the reader on the relative merits of hymn singing and bootlace selling as means of subsistence; and so is "Travels With Lizbeth." Lars Eighner teaches you how to go Dumpster diving -- though you also may grow uncommonly stout if you live on his diet of pizzas, ice cream and funny-looking chocolate. ("Chocolate is often discarded only because it has become discolored as the cocoa butter de-emulsified," which leaves one less than reassured.) And sometimes Dumpsters yield entire new lives. The castoff uniform of a maintenance man or a hospital worker will give you the free run of an institution packed solid with goodies for the taking. Mr. Eighner writes of homeless people masquerading successfully, for long periods of time, as janitors, students, nurses and college professors, just as Jack London & Company passed themselves off as members of the underclass by dressing up in rags.

This book, written on an XT personal computer found in a Dumpster, is the surprising last chapter of its own story. Its partial serial publication, in The Threepenny Review, The Utne Reader, Harper's Magazine and "The Pushcart Prize XVII," has already given Mr. Eighner a new life as the kind of serious writer who receives lengthy and respectful reviews in The New York Times Book Review. It's a stunning twist of fortune -- but entirely in keeping with Lars Eighner's story so far. He has fished out his own life from the bottom of the Dumpster, shaken it free of rice grains, sponged off the egg yolks and revealed it to be the life of a successful author in good working order. 'I LOVE MY DOG'

She loves human attention and like Browning's duchess she is pleased indiscriminately whencesoever it comes. In this she frustrates herself because she seeks attention by barking in a way that people who know little of dogs interpret as threatening. . . . The relationship between me and Lizbeth is that of man and dog. That I have made some sacrifices to avoid abandoning her or having her put to death in her youth seems to me entirely within the proper scheme of the relationship of man and dog -- my proper performance under an ancient interspecies contract.

Lizbeth had her disadvantages. I could not go some places with her. Usually I had no safe place to leave her. Individuals and institutions who might have helped me alone could not consider the two of us. She is not an especially bright dog, and even so I regret not having trained her to the extent of her abilities in her youth. I often averted disaster only by anticipating her behavior, which is to say, I suppose, she has trained me. I was never confronted with a choice between Lizbeth and some permanent, significant advantage. I might have given her up to obtain a few days' lodging here or there, but then I would have been back on the streets without the advantages of having her. I do not mind admitting that I love my dog. But anyone who has had to sleep by the side of the road in some wild place may appreciate that an extra pair of keen ears, a good nose and sharp teeth on a loud, ferocious ally of unquestionable loyalty have a certain value that transcends mere sentiment. If she did not save my life, and I am not so sure she did not, she did prove herself worth having many times over. My loyalty to her may seem touching to some people, and others may take it as evidence of my irrationality, but it always had, too, the aspect of preserving a valuable asset. From "Travels With Lizbeth." ORTS FOR BREAKFAST, ORTS FOR LUNCH. . . .

"It costs money to lose weight," Lars Eighner said, explaining the ins and outs of his waistline over the past six years. Mr. Eighner is still poor, almost as poor as he was when he was writing "Travels With Lizbeth," and he is still "uncommonly stout," carrying, the author says, 360 pounds on his 6-foot-3-inch frame. "It costs money to diet, to buy water-packed tuna instead of doughnuts," he explained in a telephone interview from an apartment he is now sharing in Austin, Tex.

Still, there was a time during his travels, in July 1989, when he had a little money and decided to diet. "Actually, I just didn't eat at all -- it was starvation." Thus the dust jacket of his book shows an almost wispy man, with narrow shoulders and skinny arms. "But if you saw the full frame," he said, "you would see that even then I was pear-shaped."

Though Mr. Eighner was usually hungry, he was never at a loss for words, living on "orts," for example, or food scraps, a 15th-century word from the Dutch that he says is current in south Texas. While on the road and dining (if that's the word) from Dumpsters, he tried to sell his gay erotica.

Mr. Eighner, 44, grew up in Houston and majored in ethnic studies at the University of Texas, Austin, for three years before dropping out to work in a drug-crisis program and later as an attendant in a mental hospital. A policy dispute led to his departure. He could not find another job and fell behind on his rent, and his sexuality had already alienated him from his family, so he and Lizbeth, a sort of Labrador, ended up on the street.

After working in what he calls a "lunatic asylum" and living on the streets, he has sharp words for a system that supplies food stamps only to those with kitchens, effectively denying help to the poorest -- those without kitchens. He has a plan to aid the poor: "We could fire every social worker in the country."


Since publishing Travels with Lizbeth, Eighner has battled poverty. The book has been in and out-of-print over the years, and he earned just $80,000 in royalties for the four years after it was published. On June 22, 2014 he created a post at gofundme, entitled "Summer Shortfall." He was requesting donors to "Bridge the summer shortfall since we still cannot move to a cheaper place even if we could find one." By August 22, 2014 he had raised $620 of his $1500 goal.

Eigner's photo, June 2014